What’s In A Business Name?

We’ve all done it. We go to our favorite domain registry outfit and search for some trick domain name we think might have potential for some future project. We are drawn to clever domain names. Of course, in the real business world most of our clever ideas never see the light of day. I dare say that most registered domain names are probably never used. They reside in a virtual parking space, never earning a single cent of revenue.

Business names aren’t so different. Owners don’t often consider the impact of the name they give their business – the impact on marketing. I’ll go ahead and confess some things about the name of my business, Bula Network, LLC. It tells you absolutely nothing about what I do, or what services and products are offered. But, that was by design. Stay with me, I’m not completely crazy.

When you’re forming an LLC you may want to consider other things beyond marketing when you choose a name. I operate a variety of enterprises that are all connected and residing (well, at least all the ones that have to do with Bula Network, LLC) under the umbrella known as Bula Network, LLC.

I used to do some industry specific coaching and consulting. The niche was retail. So I named the enterprise, Remarkable Retail. That name told prospects what they needed to know. In that space I would coach, assist, teach, train, help implement and otherwise accelerate retail businesses. It stood to reason that Remarkable Retail was aimed at helping the retail sector become remarkable (or more remarkable). Was it a great name? I thought so. It was specific and easy to remember.

Leaning Toward Wisdom. Guess what that’s all about. See, it’s another example of a nice phrase, but it doesn’t properly tell you what it’s about. Well, maybe that’s not a good example because it’s a domain I’ve had for a good long while. It’s been an on again, off again place where I riff on about my own quest for finding greater wisdom. Currently, it’s on its 4th iteration. Shows you how much wisdom I was able to garner in generations one through three, huh?

My wife has been connected with the health care industry for decades. I’ve always been somewhat tickled at how doctors will name their practice. Most often they’ll make sure the practice bears their name – and that’s it. They think that because they care about their name, then prospective patients will, too. Of course, patients or prospective patients have little clue who they are unless they are world renowned.

In recent years I’ve seen some doctors – who’ve been taught nothing about marketing – name their businesses (they much prefer the term “practices”) to tell patients exactly what they do. For example, “Heart Center” or “Sports Medicine Specialists” or “Arthritis Surgery Center.” That’s the right idea.

Let me give you a few terrific examples of how a brand name can make or break a product. Head & Shoulders shampoo is a Proctor and Gamble product. It’s been around for many years, but continues to find success because the name tells shampoo shoppers exactly what it does. Shampoo your head with this stuff and you won’t have any dandruff on your shoulders.

Sears produced the Die Hard battery many years ago and it quickly became a best seller. While good product design and a solid guarantee contributed to the success – nothing beats great marketing. And a great name helps. If you want a battery that has a hard time dying, then buy a Die Hard. Sure, it may cost you more, but do you really want to risk not being able to start your car?

Close Up toothpaste decided to join conventional toothpaste with mouthwash. TV spots constantly showed couples kissing – close up contact that appeals to everybody. Brush your teeth with Close Up and you’ll be ready to make out with the one you love. Cool.

On and on it goes. Names that convey meaningful things about the product or service. But there are also more examples of bad names that say absolutely nothing. I spend more time than I’d like in talking about niches and helping people narrow the focus of their offerings. The temptation is to be broad-based and “all things to all people.” It’s counter-intuitive to reality. Success is more often found in narrowly, specialized niches. The same can be true of names.

Or not.

Consider Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Yelp and a host of other names that we’ve grown to know and understand, but they don’t tell us anything really of what these companies do.

“But I don’t want to limit myself,” says the business owner. Translation: “I don’t yet know what I am, or what I’m supposed to be – so I want to leave myself room to expand.”

More accurate translation, “I don’t know what I am or what I want to be.” Well, let me help you answer that.

You’re lazy. Too lazy to do the work necessary to figure out who your ideal customer should be. And sometimes, it changes over time.

The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company was founded in 1902. They went about 15 years or so before they were really profitable. This company has been on the leading edge of innovation for many years. You know them as 3M. Established as mining company, you know them for mostly for adhesives in products like Scotch Tape and Post-It Notes.

Microsoft doubtless considered they’d be the behemoth they are today. Not even Bill Gates is that brilliant. Is the name nichey enough? Yes, it is. The company has made their billions in software – the latter half of their name. I’m old enough to remember that computers were initially called “micro-computers.” If you’re under 40 you don’t have any recall of such a time. Gates was forming Microsoft when that label was commonplace. Of course, he also made Microsoft a household name before “micro-computer” bit the dust. When you’re ahead of the curve and you become a market leader, it makes your name much less significant. But I’d be able to put forth good arguments that during crucial years, Microsoft was a name that conveyed exactly what Gates wanted. I could make the same argument for a small little brand known as Nike. (And I am old enough to remember when people had no idea how to pronounce the name. Some folks even called it Nike as in bike. If your profit margins are high enough and you can spend enough in marketing – people learn how to say your name!)

Timing matters. Unfortunately, we can’t always engineer our timing. Nor can we always know when serendipity will strike.

I find that many business owners haven’t fully thought of what they want to be when they grow up. They don’t like to consider a narrow niche. They’d rather think of their business as being so broad-based and all-encompassing so they can dream of being the next big thing. Of course, growing into the next big thing is more difficult when you can’t narrowly focus on who you really are – or what you should be to succeed. Today.

When I ask, “Who is your target audience?” I often get a blank stare. Or I get some wide cut answer like, “Women 18-54.” A better answer might be, “Women over 35 who have just given birth to their first child.” Which answer do you suppose would garner greater success? Which group would be easier to reach? Alex, give me “women over 35 who have just given birth to their first child” for $1000, please!

Names can make or break sales because names can make or break our ability to convey great marketing. An investment real estate firm could use “Gold Bar Investments” or they could just as easily (and more effectively) use “Gold Bar Real Estate Investments.” Why don’t they use the more precise name? Because they don’t want to be pigeon-holed. Because they think it will hamper their marketing efforts, and their ability to do business. Unfortunately, they’ve got it all backwards.

And I’ve just proven to you that I can’t even get this right. Like you, I often fall prey to the voices in my head, who time and again have proven themselves wrong!

I’ll end with my top three suggestions:

1. Make your name say exactly what you do. Rather than Bill’s Furniture, how about Bill’s Easy Living Furniture or Bill’s Formal Furniture or Bill’s Recreational Furniture. Each of those names conjures up a specific image in your mind. That’s exactly what we want shoppers to do when they hear the name of our company! We want to help them create a picture in their mind of who we are and what we do.

2. Make your website domain name just as precise, if not more so. If Bill’s Furniture decides to become Bill’s Easy Living Furniture then of course Bill will want to register BillsEasyLivingFurniture.com (and the variations of dot com), but Bill should also consider his location. Bill sells furniture that requires delivery. That means his local market covers about a 30 mile radius. Let’s say Bill’s business is located in Shreveport, Louisiana. Why not register ShreveportComfortableFurniture.com or some domain containing Bill’s location? That way, Bill’s prospects can Google furniture in Shreveport and more easily be directed to Bill’s website. Of course, Google is making sure you can’t just game the system, but it’s still smart to let prospects know exactly who you are, what you do and where you do it.

3. Make your name meaningful to prospects. Just because the name is precise to you doesn’t mean it’s precise to your prospects. Do some keyword research. Finding a great name has never been easier because today you can find out what people are searching. Keyword research lets you know exactly how many times people are looking for certain words. Find the most popular words and incorporate those into your names.

Just remember these two words: precision pays.

Go narrow. Go specific. Go precise. When you do you’ll dramatically improve your ability to make more sales.

I’ve got a few projects in the works and I’m working hard to get the names as precise as possible. Example? ChasingDFWCool.com.I’ve got a few secret projects up my sleeve, too – and they’re all aimed as narrowly as I can make them.

Should I rename the podcast? 

I’d love to hear your suggestions. Leave me a voicemail. Just hit that tab over there to the right.


P.S. I walked outside with my portable recorder to capture the crows outside The Yellow Studio. As it wont to happen, they got very quiet and refused to crow. The beggars likely want a recording contract before they’re perform on demand. I’ll work on sneaking up on ’em.


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